Voting Blogs: The Campaign Finance Law of Unintended Consequences | Brennan Center for Justice

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce plans to spend $100 million to influence this year’s elections, and it will do anything to make sure no one knows where it gets its money from. In March, a federal judge issued a decision concerning a type of political ad that the Chamber has used heavily in its attempts to influence elections, called “electioneering communications.” The decision requires that any group (or individual) that runs electioneering communications must disclose its donors. Advocates of transparency in elections praised the ruling, hoping it would increase the disclosures that allow voters to evaluate the messages they are being bombarded with this election. But the Chamber is defiant. It has announced that it will switch from using electioneering communications to another type of ad, called “independent expenditures,” which still allow spenders to avoid disclosing donors.

Voting Blogs: Super PACs, “Shadow Super PACs” and the Avalanche of Money | Campaign Legal Center Blog

Super PACs are a blight on America’s political landscape.  They provide a means for very wealthy individuals and corporate special interests to evade anti-corruption laws that have been on the books for decades.  The courts have long recognized that large contributions to political candidates can corrupt and reduce public confidence in our democratic system.  So courts have upheld limits on how much individuals may contribute to candidates, as well as outright bans on corporate and union contributions to candidates.  But today, Super PACs are operating as de facto campaigns unrestricted by such limits. Super PACs have the ability to both distort the political process and to affect the outcome of a federal election.  Super PAC spending buys access and influence for the Super PAC funders.

Editorials: ‘Anything goes’ now in campaign financing? | San Francisco Chronicle

Is it “anything goes” now in America’s campaign finance system? John Edwards is acquitted of using campaign cash as hush money. There’s an explosion of high-dollar super political action committees in the presidential race. It’s all stoking criticism of revisions and regulatory loopholes in a system that was intended to keep better control of political money after Watergate. Loosening the law has made it easier for politicians to butt up against the legal line — if not cross it — and for wealthy Americans to influence who wins office, from the White House on down.

Editorials: An end run around campaign finance laws | The Washington Post

To grasp the clear and present danger that the current flood of campaign cash poses to American democracy, consider the curious case of Post Office Box 72465. It demonstrates that the explosion of super PAC spending is only the second-most troubling development of recent campaign cycles. Box 72465, on a desert road near Phoenix, belongs to a little-known group called the Center to Protect Patient Rights. According to reports by the Center for Responsive Politics and the Los Angeles Times, the center funneled more than $55 million to 26 Republican-leaning groups during the 2010 midterm election. Where is the money from? The Times found links to the conservative Koch brothers, yet because the center is a nonprofit corporation, it is impossible to know. Such groups must disclose how they distribute their money, not who donates to them.

California: Proposition 28 Would Change Term Limit Law | NBC

Proposition 28 on the June ballot would fundamentally change California’s law mandating term limits for members of the state legislature. The measure would increase the length of time that any one elected official could serve in either house of the state legislature to 12 years, up from six in the Assembly and eight in the Senate. It would decrease the total number of years that an official could serve, however, from 14 years to that same 12. Opponents say the initiative would give elected officials – many of whom run from safe seats where they face little opposition – way too much time in a single job. But supporters say Prop 28 would address an unintended consequence of the state’s 22-year-old term limit law: politicians who have little knowledge or experience in their jobs and are continually seeking new elective offices for which to run.

Florida: Part of controversial Florida voter registration law struck down; votor roll purge ordered halted | Bradenton Herald

A federal judge Thursday struck down a key part of Florida’s recently revamped election laws, saying the Legislature’s restrictions have made it “risky business” for third-party groups to register new voters. Hours later, the Justice Department ordered Florida’s elections division to halt a systematic effort to find and purge the state’s rolls of noncitizen voters. Florida’s effort appears to violate both the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which protects minorities, and the 1993 National Voter Registration Act — which governs voter purges — T. Christian Herren Jr., the Justice Department’s lead civil rights lawyer, wrote in a detailed two-page letter sent late Thursday night. State officials said they were reviewing the letter. But they indicated they might fight the Justice Department over its interpretation of federal law and expressed frustration that President Barack Obama’s administration has stonewalled the state’s noncitizen voter hunt for nine months.

Florida: State defends voter roll ‘purge’ after protest from DOJ | CNN

Florida’s proposed elimination of non-U.S. citizens from its voter rolls is necessary to preventing voter fraud, a spokesman for the state’s Division of Elections said Friday after the U.S. Department of Justice called into question the legality of the action. The so-called “voter purge” would remove names from Florida’s voter rolls months before the 2012 presidential election, when Florida will play a key role as a battleground state with a large chunk of electoral votes. In a statement, Chris Cate said the decision to remove names from the list was essential to preventing non-citizens from casting ballots illegally. “The Department of State has a duty under both state and federal laws to ensure that Florida’s voter registration rolls are current and accurate. Therefore, identifying ineligible voters is something we are always doing,” Cate wrote. He added that the action was not meant to prevent minority voters from voting.

Massachusetts: Voter ID bill sidelined in Legislature |

Arguing enhanced efforts to ensure the identity of voters could disenfranchise some people, House Democrats on Thursday agreed to a further study of the issue, disappointing Republican lawmakers who believe their proposal will root out voter fraud. The House voted 104-43 to send the issue to study, including a look at the costs of the proposal, during debate on a $212 million supplemental budget. The vote followed a lengthy debate about voting rights and voter identification. Rep. Viriato deMacedo (R-Plymouth) introduced an amendment to the mid-year spending bill that would require voters to show identification at the polls – a proposal that failed Wednesday when the House passed a package of election reforms. Democrats immediately offered a further amendment to send the idea to study – an oft-used tactic by House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s leadership team that Republicans refer to as an “inoculator” because it prevents a vote on the underlying issue. DeMacedo has filed the bill for the past 12 years.

New Hampshire: Voter ID plan would take effect in fall, with tighter restrictions later |

A new legislative compromise would ask all voters to show a photo identification card before casting ballots in state elections starting this fall. Those voters without an ID would still be able to vote without having to fill out any additional paperwork, but a different, voter ID law would kick in after July 1, 2013. Negotiators literally split this one down the middle creating the legal scheme for 2012 the Senate wanted and then more rigorous voter ID requirements later, which was the desire of House Speaker William O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon.

Texas: Republicans and Democrats use different voting machines in Williamson County primaries |

A split between Williamson County Democrats and Republicans during primary voting has been behind slow election night returns in the past, but they weren’t at fault Tuesday. A Democratic poll worker forgot to take a memory card out of a voting machine in Florence, authorities said, delaying final results until about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday. Officials had already counted the rest of the votes from Democrats and Republicans by 10:15 p.m., said Rick Barron, the Williamson County election administrator. Because of differing opinions on voting security, Republicans and Democrats use separate voting machines in the primary, and that can slow down the counting process, Barron said. The different methods and some equipment glitches slowed down results in the 2010 primary, he said, and could delay results in the future.

Wyoming: Fremont County protests fees in voting rights case |

Fremont County is balking at paying legal fees for a group of American Indians whose court challenge forced the county to abandon its system of at-large voting for commissioners. Five members of the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes won a ruling from U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson of Cheyenne in 2010 that at-large voting in the county violated the federal Voting Rights Act by diluting the Indian vote. A federal appeals court early this year rejected Fremont County’s appeal. On appeal, the county didn’t contest Johnson’s finding that at-large voting violated the law. Instead, it challenged the judge’s rejection of its proposals to remediate the violation by creating a single, Indian majority district centered on the Wind River Indian Reservation while continuing with at-large voting in the rest of the county. In rejecting the county’s plans, Johnson wrote that they “appear to be devised solely for the purpose of segregating citizens into separate voting districts on the basis of race without sufficient justification, contrary to the defendants’ assertions.”